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Dakota Datebook

Building with Stone

One would think that in a state with as many rock piles as we have, there would be fieldstone buildings everywhere, but they tend to be uncommon.

The Buffalo Herald described Angus Beaton, a stonemason from Nova Scotia, as a “reliable expert in the handling of brick and stone.” Beaton was an early homesteader in southeast North Dakota and was responsible for building the historic Calvary Episcopal Chapel in Buffalo in 1885. Now known as the Old Stone Church, it was the first stone church built in Cass County, and the third in northern Dakota Territory. The building was architect George Hancock’s first stone church design to also include a stone tower. While the building has since been rescued, the tower disappeared many years ago.

Stonemason Beaton was only 52 when he died on this date of meningitis in 1898.

It was about twenty years later when several stone buildings were erected near Ryder. Daniel Jackson and Anna Gudahl were both homesteading claims in Blue Hill Township, southwest of Minot, when they first met. They married in 1906 and shared a dream of someday having a fieldstone house similar to one Anna remembered from Norway.

They started with a smaller building, a Norwegian style, split-level chicken coop in 1912 built entirely of fieldstone. It had two stories. Feed, stored on the upper level, reached the main floor through chutes.

The main house was built six years later, in 1918. Anna designed the home and supervised the construction. When it was finished, the house was a showplace – two stories built of large hand-cut stones. Smaller rounded stones were used for design elements and the chimneys. The main floor had a large living room, fireplace, library, master bedroom and bathroom, and a walk-in basement housed the kitchen, dining room, furnace and storeroom.

Up in the Turtle Mountains, is the Coghlan Castle, a whimsically designed, 5-bedroom, stone mansion on a hill east of St. John. An Irishman, Maurice Coghlan, and his sons built the castle, complete with cupolas and a turret. Coghlan homesteaded there in 1883, and when he built his masterpiece in 1904, it was considered a very grand affair. It included a heating plant for hot water and indoor plumbing, a grand central staircase and was the only house in the region with hardwood floors. In 2008 it became listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and efforts to preserve it are ongoing.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

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